The tragic genius from Oak Cliff who put Texas on the literary map

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What do Janis Joplin, Larry McMurtry, Ken Kesey and LBJ have in common?

This week it’s their appearance in a new biography about Billy Lee Brammer, the Sunset High School graduate who put Texas on the literary map.

Brammer was a journalist who served as a press secretary for U.S. Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson in the 1950s. In 1959, he published “The Gay Place,” a novel based on the real-life shenanigans of Texas politicians, including Johnson.

“The Gay Place” was a sensation in the realms of politics and literature, but it was a one-hit wonder. Brammer continued his journalism career and became “a fixture, and eventual glass-eyed patron saint, of Austin’s counterculture,” writes the Texas Observer.

For his part, Brammer is also a mirror for the nation, a personification that is as central to telling his story as it is to ‘the Brammer Myth’: the whispers that Brammer and friends helped nurture the San Francisco hippie scene, that Brammer shared a mistress with JFK, that he introduced Austin to LSD and that he saw the Kennedy assassination up close (all, in [author Tracy] Daugherty’s estimation, possibly true).

Brammer died of a drug overdose in 1978, but “The Gay Place” lives on. I can’t wait to get my hands on this biography, which comes out Oct. 17.

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